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Trends Genet. 2003 Dec;19(12):701-8.

Gradients and thresholds: BMP response gradients unveiled in Drosophila embryos.

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  • 1Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) direct dorsal-ventral patterning in both invertebrate and vertebrate embryos, with strong evolutionary conservation of molecular components of the pathway. Dorsal-ventral patterning of the early Drosophila embryo is a powerful experimental system to probe mechanisms of BMP gradient formation and interpretation. Recent studies have found that spatial patterns of activated BMP signal transducers in Drosophila go through an unexpected transition: a shallow gradient of weak responses at mid-cellularization changes to a step gradient of stronger responses in cellularized embryos. The transition between two gradients of different shape yields new insights into the progression of Drosophila dorsal-ventral patterning and raises new issues about the mechanisms of gradient formation.

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